CoPAC Announces New Barking Legs Theater Staff

Friday, September 14, 2018
Contemporary Performing Arts of Chattanooga announces Barking Legs Theater’s two new staff: award winning local artist and writer Marcus Ellsworth as the artistic managing director and arts activist and educator Ayana Clemmons as director of education.

Prior to joining Barking Legs Theater, Mr. Ellsworth worked as a writer for MTV News Politics. He has served in leadership roles for various non-profit organizations around the nation. He is also a Chattanooga-based poet, spoken word artist and the host and organizer of The Floor is Yours at Barking Legs Theater.  The New Orleans native has two self-published books of poetry, Harlequin Fires and When the World was Round, and is often involved with organizing eclectic collaborative work with other performing artists in the Chattanooga area.
Mr. Ellsworth attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Ms. Clemmons is a cultural organizer, educator and trained dancer. She continues to work collaboratively with various grassroots and arts organizations in Nashville and Chattanooga. Ms. Clemmons most recently served as the program director for Full Circle Teaching Artists Program; a Barking Legs educational outreach program that has been instrumental in transforming arts education in the Hamilton County public school system.  Ms. Clemmons works to promote Barking Legs programs, events and services in the community.

Ann Law, CoPAC/Barking Legs Theater founder and executive director, says she is ecstatic about the new, multi-talented additions to her team. 

“After running a non-profit arts organization in this community for twenty-five years, Bruce Kaplan and I have been looking for a collaborative partnership in which to share our history, passion, and dreams,” says Ms. Law.  Mr. Kaplan is the CoPAC/Barking Legs Theater co-founder and music director.

Ms. Law adds, “What has emerged this year is a strong dynamic partnership with Marcus and Ayana to create community, educational outreach, and a progressive arts movement. Within this quartet, I find an incredible aesthetic and creative diversity that promotes growth in all directions.”

Mr. Ellsworth says he is thrilled to be a part of the organization. “Barking Legs Theater has established a solid reputation throughout the Southeast for supporting contemporary performing artists and providing a venue that showcases eclectic and ear-and-mind stretching music at its finest,” he says. “We have a unique platform to seek ongoing collaborative partners and community support, so we can increase our overall impact in Chattanooga.” 

Mr. Ellsworth’s love for the arts colors his personal life and community involvement. He was recently awarded a $7,500 grant by the Footprint Foundation for his varied and collective contributions to the arts in Chattanooga. He was one of three recipients, out of 18 nominees, selected for the grant.

Arts education has always been Ms. Clemmons’ passion. She envisions an infusion of cultural and artistic expression through her work with Full Circle Teaching Artists Program, which is designed to help underprivileged school-age children with personal discovery and development. 

“In order to educate our students we must understand their lived experiences. The recommended best practice would be to have teachers from among the communities in which they are teaching. Our education system cannot be improved simply by hiring more teachers and increasing funding alone,” Ms. Clemmons says. “We need to transform the education system by including the voices from our community. To come full circle as an underprivileged artist now working for an arts organization that celebrates the power of the arts as an engine for social transformation, that to me is putting the community forward.” 

Mr. Kaplan says that the new staff was a strategic hire to support the non-profit’s growth and sustainability.

“After decades of Ann and I being the dominant voices behind the activities and aesthetics of CoPAC and Barking Legs Theater, it is an extraordinary delight being part of a four-person staff, Mr. Kaplan said. “With the additions of Ayanna and Marcus, the synergies that have evolved and the momentum that has been created have been remarkable.”


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